Thumbs up: Packers coach Mike McCarthy has been very good at keeping his finger on the pulse of his team, and apparently he detected a weakened pulse after two weeks of camp. So, the coach decided to scrap what he terms Plan 1 for the training camp schedule and go with Plan 1a, which turned the three remaining scheduled nighttime practices next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday into 11:15 a.m. workouts instead. “I want to get their body clocks going a week earlier than normal because we’re starting our season a half week earlier than normal,” said McCarthy, who had slated the remaining practices after the Aug. 19 preseason game against Arizona as 10:45 workouts, just as in the regular season. “This was an option all along.”
McCarthy said the nighttime practices allowed for extended teaching sessions during the day as the coaches did their nine-part installations, with the extra time being particularly beneficial to the rookies. But McCarthy also acknowledged that the schedule had its challenges. “IIt is a long day, there’s no question about that,” McCarthy admitted. “Practicing at night, the rest and recovery probably isn’t what you think on paper because players, when they do leave here, it is 9:30 at night and they’re probably not able to wind down till 11, 11:30 at night. So there’s a lot of good information that came out of this. We’re always looking to improve from a scheduling standpoint. I think scheduling is a big part of how you train your football team.
“To me, you have two types of schedules. You have a training camp schedule and at some point in training camp you get to an in-season schedule. We’re doing it a week early for the reasons I just stated.”
The decision was met with appreciation by the veteran players, who admitted that the long days were a challenge. “I like it,” running back Ryan Grant said. “I think it gives us some down time, but it also maximizes the time that we’re here. I think he paid attention to the responses of the guys as a whole. When we’re here, we’re working. We’re maximizing our time, and we don’t have to stay here (late). There were a lot of things we couldn’t get done, getting out of practice at 9:15.”
Thumbs down: It’s never good to see a key player go down with an injury in practice, let alone three. Nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle), No. 3 cornerback Sam Shields (hip/back) and rookie running back Alex Green (quadriceps) all suffered injuries in practice Thursday night, the team’s final workout before Saturday’s preseason opener against the Browns. Green, who was working as the No. 1 kickoff returner, pulled up lame early in practice; Raji went down while defending the run in an 11-on-11 period, and Shields was injured on a spectacular interception, when he leaped to make a one-handed pick on a pass to rookie wide receiver Tori Gurley.
Shields’ injury appeared to be the worst of the three, but McCarthy did not address the severity of any of them. If Shields can’t go, the Packers could be thin at corner with Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams not expected to play and two other corners sidelined with injuries.
“Any time you have injuries to your team, you make adjustments,” he said. “We’ve had injuries the last couple days to the cornerback position. It was a concern today when we went through the initial play time. We’ll meet on it again tomorrow and frankly it’ll probably take ‘til Saturday’s meeting to see how a couple of these guys come out injury-wise. But yes, we’re definitely a little thin at corner.”
Play of the day: With six tight ends in camp, Spencer Havner has his work cut out for him. But if the linebacker-turned-tight end keeps making catches like the one he had Thursday night, he’ll be in the thick of it. During an 11-on-11 period with starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Havner ran a seam route down the middle of the field and made a terrific twisting catch with linebacker Elijah Joseph in tight coverage. It was the kind of grab usually associated with Jermichael Finley.
Camp confidential: Unlike past preseason openers, when the No. 1s played roughly a quarter before turning it over to the No. 2s and 3s, McCarthy intends to mix and match with personnel, likely playing some starters with the backups and vice versa in an attempt to make sure no one plays too many snaps after the discombobulated offseason and start to camp.
“It’ll be similar to what we’ve done in the past from an offensive and defensive standpoint. But I wouldn’t put a lot into when they’re playing in the game,” McCarthy explained. “I think it’s important with the fatigue injuries that we’ve had to this point to try to find balance between the offensive and defensive snaps and the special team reps. We’re going to attempt to move certain positions throughout the game, meaning it’s not exactly who they’re playing with and when they’re playing. It’s more about trying to spread some of their reps out.
“We don’t think it’s smart to just jump into preseason like we have in the past where sometimes the reps are lopsided at certain positions and younger players play a whole lot in one game and veterans don’t. Then you flip it the next game. We’re going to try to balance it as best we can. Like a lot of things in life, it looks good on paper right now, but we’ll see what happens Saturday. Preseason games are a challenge.”
Injury report: While Raji, Shields and Green couldn’t finish practice, wide receiver Brett Swain (hamstring), safety Brandon Underwood (knee), cornerbacks Brandian Ross (hamstring) and Davon House (hamstring) and offensive linemen Adrian Battles (Achilles’) and Theo Sherman (ankle) remained sidelined, while linebacker Diyral Briggs (hamstring) still hasn’t passed his physical and remains on PUP.
Kicker Mason Crosby (ankle) made his two field-goal attempts, kicking for the first time since last Friday, and while he looked fine, McCarthy wouldn’t say definitively if Crosby will kick against the Browns.
McCarthy also stopped short of ruling out Finley (glute contusion), who has missed the past two practices and hasn’t played in a game since suffering a season-ending knee injury last Oct. 10 at Washington. “I’d like to see Jermichael play Saturday, but it’s a medical decision,” McCarthy said. “We can say that about a couple individuals. It’s the times we’re in. We will obviously caution against playing guys before they’re ready. We always have and probably even more so this year.”
Practice schedule: The Packers canceled Thursday’s practice, with good reason: They’ll be meeting President Barack Obama at the White House at 1:30 p.m. Wisconsin time. They’ll then continue on to Cleveland in advance of Saturday night’s game.
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